I never considered chronic pain to be a bully.
It was certainly a presence to be reckoned with – appearing stronger than me, with the ability to be fierce and fiery, a constant energy force with a heavyweight. It was something to contend with. I did my best not to perceive it as something that I engaged in battle, nor was it my friend; I tried to envision it, no matter what it felt like, as the most neutral presence I could imagine. My efforts did not change the pain, nor many of its effects on me, but they did allow me to shift my perception to a somewhat easier and gentler existence in its company.
My beef was with the fact that those I turned to in the healthcare industry seemed ineffective in helping me deal with chronic pain.
Their approach was not to ask if I should take medication, but which one(s). The western doctor’s approach was: how can we add, subtract, or otherwise tweak the meds. All too often their answer was to increase the strength and frequency. They never appeared to have considered another alternative, or if they had, they had rejected it altogether.
Sure, I added physical therapy, walking, yoga, acupuncture, massage, and meditation into the mix. These modalities helped, but their effect was diminished in the presence of medication. And no matter what I did, or how often, still the pain persisted. I saw myself in a prison of pain. I could not find the key to get out. I couldn’t even find the door to put the key in if I had one to use. Hopelessness around ever escaping this prison – well, I carried that as best as I could. No one ever talked to me about it, and I sure never brought it up to anyone else, not even another chronic pain patient.
Finally, I saw so clearly that the meds were a huge block to just living my life.
Their role had reached a point where they had decreased the quality of my life instead of increasing it as the doctors had originally intended. “Let’s give her these so she can live with more ease.” Well, that just wasn’t’ happening anymore…not even remotely.
I put my head on my pillow for a nap or at night and wondered if I fell asleep if I would ever wake up again. Sometimes when I laid down to sleep, I felt the flow of my will to live ebb to such a trickle, I felt it would be easier to slip away altogether.
For me, the pain was a given. My job was how to navigate it the easiest way and still function the best I could.
It never occurred to me to think so far out of the box. From my perspective, and given the view of my doctors, to imagine this pain lifting and leaving me altogether? And I was trained by my science professors to think in out-of-the-box ways.
When I finally found Dr. Peter Przekop’s Pain Management Program, I went in on his promises that: he could help me get off the fentanyl and benzos, and that he could reset my stress response. (I was at a point where I experienced frequent and relentless panic attacks on top of the rest of it.) He told me that my medications might be causing some of my pain, but I never heard him say that the pain would or even could disappear. The pain lifting altogether? Inconceivable. Not on the radar. Not anywhere near the radar. Pure fantasy.
When I went into Dr. Przekop’s program, Dr. P had us complete an extensive questionnaire about our experience with pain. One of the questions as I remember it was: ‘would you go to any lengths to conquer your pain?’ My answer was “yes,” but I was surprised at the question. “What has this man got in store for me?” I felt threatened and challenged in a completely new way. I even remember saying to myself, “How can it be possible to conquer pain?” … and…” You mean it COULD be possible to conquer this pain?” This question and Dr. Przekop’s helping me detox off of the meds set the stage for me. It threw my perspective on my whole situation; right out of whatever box I had put it in.
I felt untethered in a way, freed from certain bondage, just because he presented me with this question.
My job in Pain Track was to show up and do whatever was asked of me. Some of the things I was asked to do scared the heck out of me. I was so used to holding all of my feelings inside that they were wrapped up in a tight coil. To let go of them, any of them, AND in the midst of strangers? You’ve got to be kidding! I didn’t even take them seriously for the first week I was there. I didn’t feel safe with them, and I sure didn’t feel safe to express all of those feelings I had been holding in for so long. Well. It turned out that turning into THIS space in addition to getting off the meds was the crack in the massive dam of pain I had been experiencing. Maybe we could say that it’s the holding on to our stuff that is the real problem. The pain is more the result, the effect we feel, from holding things in and holding onto them.
We can heal from our chronic pain. Part of healing our pain is to be willing to let go of the things we have been holding onto for so long.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this series next week!
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Elizabeth is a Health Facilitator, Empowerment Coach, EFT/Tapping and Ancestral Clearing Practitioner, and Kundalini Yoga Teacher, helping people to step into the power of their own healing. She has turned her attention as a patient advocate and health facilitator in service to the alarmingly high population of people who suffer from stress, chronic pain, and the quest for a life free from suffering.